You could not have scripted a more perfect four-game series in the Bronx if Red Sox hitters had burst into flames the minute they left the batter’s box. The Yankees:
• Exposed the Sox’s 8–0 “dominance” this season as a fluke with a blowout victory on Thursday.
• Won an instant-classic fifteen-inning epic on Friday night, ending with a clutch (!) walk-off home run from Alex Rodriguez, of all people.
• Watched as CC Sabathia, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Saturday, finally looked like the best pitcher in baseball.
• Held the Red Sox scoreless for 31 consecutive innings, their longest streak since 1974.
• Let David Ortiz, in a press conference that attempted to reiterate his PED innocence but only kept the story rolling and spinning, serve as the latest flash point in the endless (and endlessly dull) Steroid Scapegoat Game, so that A-Rod doesn’t have to.
• Yanked the Red Sox’s heart out by scoring four runs in the eighth inning mostly off phenom Daniel Bard before Mariano Rivera, who hasn’t given up a run in almost two months, slammed the door in the ninth.
• Allowed the Red Sox just three leads … leads the Yankees took back (or tied) in the very same half-inning every single time.
• Swept a four-game home series over the Sox for the first time in 24 years.
• Officially christened the new ballpark, which feels a little less like a fancy, clean new couch you’re afraid to take the cover off and more like a building that is rounding into October shape. The Yankees had their first sellout since Opening Day, and, as anyone who watched a single game this weekend knows, the place holds the sound well. No one’s talking about Legends Suites seats now.
It’s probably time to accept that the Yankees are making the playoffs. And the Red Sox are suddenly far from a lock: They’re now tied with the Rangers for the wild-card slot (and only one and a half ahead of the Rays) and haven’t looked this discombobulated in years. With Ortiz and Jason Bay struggling, and John Smoltz released, the Red Sox look like they have gaping deficiencies in the rotation and the lineup. The body blows the Yankees delivered this weekend were not flukes: Boston is at its lowest point right now, and there’s not much time for them to turn it around.
How quickly did this happen? It doesn’t seem like that long since the Transformers sequel was released, does it? It was June 24, 2009, just 46 days ago. The Red Sox were 44–27 and had a five-game lead in the American League East. The Yankees were 39–32 and had just lost two of three to the Florida Marlins.
Since then, the Yankees are an astounding 30–10, and the Red Sox are 18–21. That five-game Yankees deficit has turned into a six-and-a-half-game lead, the largest any team has had in the AL East since the end of the 2007 season. According to Baseball Prospectus’s Playoff Odds Report, the Yankees have a better than 96 percent chance of breaking their one-year playoff drought.
Everything has fallen into place. The Red Sox are imploding, the Yankees have the best record in baseball, and Yankee Stadium feels like the center of the baseball universe again. It’s been awhile.